COP26 speeches need to be put into practice

For specialists, progress has been made, but we need more ambition to be able to reap a sustainable and secure future. The presence of young, black, indigenous peoples on the outside of the COP was one of the hallmarks of the event, highlighting that climate justice should set the tone for COP27 in Egypt.

“Climate justice ! Climate justice ! Climate justice!”, the phrase repeated in chorus by thousands on the streets of Glasgow, Scotland, and elsewhere, has echoed around the world over the past two weeks. The message is clear: civil society is more organized and ready to voice demands that put the world on the path to an ecologically balanced and, above all, socially just future.

Given the magnitude of the risks, losses and damages associated with floods, droughts, forest fires and other extreme events resulting from the climate emergency, the mobilization of network movements to influence the global public agenda on the environment is intensified. Scholars of sociology note that large periods marked by environmental catastrophes are followed by changes in humankind’s perception of environmental conditions.

The world’s climate is changing due to the growing emissions of greenhouse gases, the villains of global warming, leaving a negative balance that amplifies existing inequalities and generates changes that can be irreversible and potentially harmful to the environment. Ecosystems will not be able to absorb such impacts indefinitely — parts of the Amazon forest are losing their ability to remove carbon dioxide (CO2) from the atmosphere, ceasing to be sinks and becoming emission sources — and even society will not be able to deal with the stresses of a hotter world.

“We are digging our own graves,” predicted UN Secretary General António Guterres in an appeal to world leaders for more ambitious goals to combat the climate crisis. The UN climate meeting came to an end on Saturday night (13th November, 2021). For Guterres, the outcome of the meeting – the Glasgow Climate Pact – was an “important step, but not enough,” he said, defending the end of subsidies to fossil fuels, a point that was mitigated in the final agreement of the COP, as well as the mentions to coal.

Speaking to youth, indigenous people, women and other climate movement leaders, the UN secretary general said the path to achieving these goals may not be linear, and urged them not to give up. ” We’re never going to give up, never, ” said Sweden’s Greta Thunberg on Twitter, after summarizing the conference as ” Blah, blah, blah ” and stating that “the work continues outside the corridors [of the COP].” If countries have failed to deliver the ambition needed to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in line with the Paris Agreement objective , civil society is ready to take action.

“The tens of thousands of people on the streets of Glasgow gathered to show that society is ahead of governments — and unwilling to let blah blah blah triumph,” said Marcio Astrini, executive secretary of the Climate Observatory , a network with 70 civil society organizations mobilized around the climate emergency and solutions for decarbonization. This action should keep the tone in the coming months until 2022, when the world gathers again in Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt, to assess more ambitious goals for 2030 at the COP27 .

Many speeches, few actions

But did COP26, which brought together representatives from approximately 200 countries to discuss the future of the planet, really manage to do what was expected? Set realistic commitments to be able to control global warming and ensure the preservation of life on Earth? Where are we going and where do we still need more ambition to reap a sustainable and secure future?

For the researcher Shigueo Watanabe, the climate commitments assumed by countries so far are still not enough to contain global warming at 1.5ºC in relation to pre-industrial levels.

“If everyone does more or less what they are promising, the idea is that we reach the end of the century with 2.4ºC [warming], which is a tragedy. We depend on more, not only on governments tightening their commitments, but even more important than that: that they comply with them,” defined the representative of ClimaInfo and Politics For All.

Andrea Alvares, from Natura, adds that the most recent projections point to the failure to keep alive the ambition expressed in the Paris Agreement, because only at this level would it be possible to maintain a “reasonable” quality of life on the Planet.

“Decarbonization is urgent and necessary. Even with the commitments taking place by 2050, the next decade is critical. So we have to not only come out with ambitions that project 1.5ºC, but that we come out with mechanisms and conditions for action to take place and the actions are effectively implemented”, she guarantees.

José Mattos, from the Ethos Institute, adds that Brazil has been seen from two different shades: one is as presented by the federal government and the other as it has been represented by civil society, which has taken the lead in maintaining the focus on climate agenda.

“There is, on the one hand, a Brazil presented as an unfeasible, ‘dehydrated’, weakened dialogue; and, on the other hand, a Brazil that has become independent and a protagonist. Among optimists and pessimists, we have those who go with great care, but it is able to identify innovative factors in the composition, for example, of a business ‘ NDC (Nationally Determined Contribution)’, to act. That’s what we need to do,” he says.


Climate justice

Gabriela Yamaguchi, from WWF-Brasil, said that this is the COP that had one of the greatest representations of civil society, and not through intermediaries: since the opening, with the young indigenous activist Txai Suruí, founder of the Youth Movement Indigenous in Rondônia, on the main stage , going through the whole debate including the participation of quilombola movements, black activists, traditional peoples, among others.

“This makes it clear that the ‘official’ leaders are still not able to conglomerate the necessary impacts for the 1.5ºC commitment. We will only reach this commitment when the real representations of the territories, of the social movements, directly speaking about justice are seated at the table. social and climate justice,” she argued.

Gabriela also spoke about climate finance for less developed nations, one of the most anticipated points for the COP26 resolution. She explained that all agreements and announcements made during the event are welcome, but basically reflect what has been said since the Paris Agreement . The real “key game” would be the prioritization of investments.

“The clear message for countries like Brazil is: what the global financing data need to change. It’s literally making the financing of fossil fuels, of oil and gas incentives, shift to the regeneration economy. It’s seeing an economy of strengthening and recognition of a socio-environmental liability that climate injustice has created over the years since the Industrial Revolution,” she defined.

Andrea, from Natura, drew attention to the need to define direct financing instruments and also to the regulation of the carbon market – which can be an instrument to facilitate the transition to a greener economy.

“The money and financing must reach those most vulnerable populations, most affected by the lack of climate justice. And there is a growing interest from investors in what is new on the market, including when it comes to green economy, which can” “resuscitate” the industrialization of some countries more sustainably by financing a transition to a low-emission world,” she said.

Mattos, from the Ethos Institute, added that there are a series of pillars that need to be consolidated, such as knowledge about the economy of the standing forest, paying special attention to the needs and possibilities of belonging of traditional peoples and local communities.

“It is necessary to understand how the environmental services that are in the system that people occupy are configured. It is no use saying that preservation is important if you are not clear that these populations also need the economy. The transfer of the energy matrix is ​​also closely linked to populations that live in the forest, that have their way of life changed in an almost authoritarian way”, he defined.

Shigueo Watanabe, from ClimaInfo and Politics For All, called attention to the need for important changes in the coming years. It is necessary to think that, in 2050, it will no longer be possible to emit pollutants in the way that is currently done.

“There won’t be any more cattle, there won’t be more oil, there won’t be more gas. This is the world that needs to happen in 2050, or 2060. And all these agreements that were made are positive, necessary, but they have a time of limited life. If we do our homework and get a more sustainable world, they won’t make sense anymore. We need to stop burning oil and gas. We need to stop eating meat. If not, the world will heat up. Any conversation beyond that passes by. for a lot of steps. We celebrate things that, deep down, aren’t playing in the main yet,” he lamented.

This story was originally published on Um So Planeta, with the support of Climate Tracker.

Guilherme Justino
Multimedia reporter working for Editora Globo in Brazil. Guilherme’s favorite areas to cover are Education, Health, Science and Sustainability. He’s an Earth Journalism Network (EJN) and International Center for Journalists (ICFJ) fellow and he’s won over a dozen national journalism awards, a number of them related to climate stories written over the years. Stories he publish are supported by his cats, Mia and Elias.